The coronavirus pandemic has led to large backlogs of eviction cases in courts around metro Atlanta. But new research finds that in rural courts, it’s often been business as usual.
The nonprofit Georgia Appleseed and Georgia State University worked together to survey counties throughout Georgia.
While most courthouses stopped eviction hearings at the beginning of the pandemic, researchers found as the outbreak continued, counties began taking very different approaches.
For example, in Fulton County, which runs the state’s busiest housing court, in-person hearings remain on hold and there are thousands of cases pending. Meanwhile, in rural counties, the report said, some courts resumed hearing their usual caseload.
Georgia State professor Lauren Sudeall said the findings showed how much of what the broader public understands about evictions comes from urban areas.
“There’s been all this talk about a fear of this crushing wave of evictions that will occur,” Sudeall said. “And I think part of what the data show is that’s not necessarily the case.”
The report said some rural courts still only handled 10 to 20 cases a month as the pandemic continued.
Research collected for the report from Georgia State University and Georgia Appleseed predated a federal order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That order allows tenants to postpone their evictions until Dec. 31 if they are behind on rent.
Unlike other states, Georgia has not seen any statewide mandate governing the eviction process during the pandemic. That has left the decision of how to handle hearings up to each of the state’s 159 counties.